bible blog 1597

The reading is from the lectionary for daily mass, while the headline is meant to keep my thinking real:

THOUSANDS IN WASHINGTON FOR BLACK RIGHTS  

New York Methodist Bus to Washington protest

New York Methodist Bus to Washington protest

ISAIAH 61

61 The Spirit of the Lord God
has taken control of me!
The Lord has chosen and sent me
to tell the oppressed
the good news,
to heal the brokenhearted,
and to announce freedom
for prisoners and captives.

2
This is the year
when the Lord God
will show kindness to us
and punish our enemies.
The Lord has sent me
to comfort those who mourn,

3
especially in Jerusalem.
He sent me to give them flowers
in place of their sorrow,
olive oil in place of tears,
and joyous praise
in place of broken hearts.
They will be called
“Trees of Justice,”
planted by the Lord

Hong Kong protesters: trees of justice

Hong Kong protesters: trees of justice

to honor his name.

4
Then they will rebuild cities
that have been in ruins
for many generations.

5
They will hire foreigners
to take care of their sheep
and their vineyards.

6
But they themselves will be
priests and servants
of the Lord our God.
The treasures of the nations
will belong to them,
and they will be famous.[a]

7
They were terribly insulted
and horribly mistreated;
now they will be greatly blessed
and joyful forever.

The third prophet to take the name Isaiah lived amongst the returned exiles from Babylon who were trying to re-establish life in Judah and Jerusalem. There were all manner of practical difficulties, including the ruinous state of Jerusalem city and its temple, as well as the social issue of how to live with those Jews who had not been exiled, who may have intermarried with non-Jews and were viewed with suspicion by the most orthodox of the returned exiles. The latter wanted to establish a community strictly ruled by Torah, rather in the manner of modern Taliban. The third Isaiah wanted a more generous and positive expression of the people’s faith. His calling was to announce the gift of God’s favour to the whole people and especially to the neediest. It was to be a time of joyful hope rather than grim determination, a time in which a united people could rebuild their city. They would not need to plant ceremonial trees in the new city to honour God but they themselves, living in God’s way, would be trees of justice.  

The “year when the Lord would show kindness” may mean the old law of a Jubilee year in which all debts would be cancelled, all slaves freed. It was a law designed to provide a new start and may have been used by Isaiah to suggest a way in which his people could start their national life again.bheart

Jesus read some of these words in the synagogue at Nazareth, according to Luke (Chapter 4), where it caused a storm of questions about his right to apply them to himself. Jesus understood that the words of the prophets do not magically refer to a specific future time, but are there to inspire those who respond to them at any time, as he did. If they helped Jesus to understand his calling, then surely they can inform the work of all people of faith: these are the tasks that God sets before all who want to act on his behalf: good news for the poor, freedom for the prisoners, healing for the broken-hearted, liberation for the oppressed, comfort for the mourners, kindness for all. The generous justice of God brings joy. I can see why Jesus liked it, because it separates true faith from the miserable, fearful, oppressive thing that it becomes in the hands of the self-righteous power-seekers in all times and all religions. Today the children of our church will bring gifts for two foodbanks: one run by the Catholic Church and the other by Muslims in Dundee. The spirit of the Lord is upon them.

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